A human rights group says South Sudanese government soldiers killed, raped, tortured, and detained dozens of civilians in and around Wau town in the country's western Bahr el Ghazal state in recent months.

A report released Tuesday by Human Rights Watch described a "counterinsurgency" rife with abuses carried out by mostly ethnic Dinka government soldiers against civilians of the local Fertit ethnic groups.

The report said soldiers tortured young men with electric shocks, shot elderly people in their homes and raped women while making their relatives watch.

It said the atrocities took place before the government and rebels formed a transitional coalition government last month.

South Sudan's civil war began in 2013 pitting mostly Dinka government soldiers against mainly Nuer rebels.